Struggling Crystal Palace welcomed high-flying Liverpool to Selhurst Park for a match of significance for both sides. The Eagles found themselves firmly in the middle of a relegation battle heading into this clash, but a positive result here would have seen Roy Hodgson’s men put some distance between themselves and the drop zone. The Reds meanwhile are fighting with a top four finish and were look to continue their impressive form in order to secure Champions League football for next season.
Milivojevic’s penalty hands Palace the lead
The atmosphere inside Selhurst Park was electric as the game kicked off and the tempo of the play was frantic right from the off, with neither side managing to settle in the early minutes. It was cagey during the opening exchanges and Crystal Palace looked a slight threat on the break, mainly through the pace of Wilfried Zaha. The Ivorian had the first real chance of the game after a smart pass put him through on goal, but Loris Karius made a brilliant save with his chest to deny the home side an opener.
The winger caused all sorts of problems amongst the visiting defenders and eventually earned his side a penalty after a clumsy tackle by Karius. Luka Milivojevic stepped up to slot the spot kick emphatically into the bottom corner, handing the Eagles an unlikely lead. Liverpool didn’t respond particularly well to the setback and Palace continued to upset their rhythm, pressing furiously and looking to break forwards at every available opportunity. The opening 20 minutes was a master class in underdog play from Roy Hodgson’s side, who had been filled with confidence after their opener.
Liverpool struggle to create chances
Eventually Jurgen Klopp’s side did begin to grow into game and settle into the lion’s share of possession, probing the Palace back line and pinning the Eagles back into their own half. Unsurprisingly Mohamed Salah looked the biggest threat for the Reds, and he managed to manufacture a decent chance on the half hour mark, but Wayne Hennessey was equal to the near post effort. Moments later Mane had the ball in the back of the net from a corner, but the winger’s header was ruled out as he was offside after the flick-on.
The chances did buoy the Liverpool players however and they began to string together some more effective and quicker passing moves. For all their dominance however the visitors struggled to create any real chances as Palace did incredibly well to soak up the pressure. Hennessey did make a great save to deny yet another Mane header from a corner, but in truth the Reds didn’t look their usual dazzling selves going forward at any point during the first period. It was Crystal Palace who headed into the break with an arguably deserved lead.
Mane finally brings Liverpool level
To the surprise of many it was actually Crystal Palace who came out for the second half looking the brighter side, despite already holding a lead over their opponents. The Eagles set a quick pace and high tempo going forward, with Zaha remaining a constant threat, but naturally it was Liverpool who found the back of the net first, catching the home side out. It was James Milner who turned provider on the left wing, drilling a cross to the feet of the lively Mane, who converted from incredibly short range, bringing Klopp’s side back into the game and setting the second period up for a good battle.
The game opened up following the equaliser and Liverpool began to look much more like their usual selves, breaking with lightning pace whenever they dispossessed a Palace player and utilising the wide areas extensively. The home side remained dangerous too however and Christian Benteke really should have had at least one goal against his former side after squandering two golden opportunities in quick succession. The Belgian failed to guide either effort on target however, let alone past Karius, and Liverpool looked to capitalise on their defensive luck.
Super Salah grabs a late winner
The game became incredibly scrappy as the clock ticked down, with Palace fighting to avoid relegation and Liverpool needing to keep pace with their top four rivals. Both sides looked capable of finding a winner at any moment and it was the home team that arguably deserved the three points on the balance of play. Hodgson’s men continued to close down and fight for every loose ball, showing far more determination and spirit than their prestigious opponents. Zaha in particular was dazzling, skipping past defenders but not quite finding the final killer pass to find a teammate in the box.
Liverpool meanwhile were forced to sit back and defend, biding their time before breaking through Salah and Firmino. The chances to do that were few and far between however as Palace utterly dominated for large spells, pinning the Reds back. When they did get forward there was a general feeling that something would eventually happen, especially with Salah providing an ever-present threat, and it was the Egyptian who finally grabbed a late winner. Another great cross from Andy Robertson found the winger in space in the box and, after a deft touch to stop the ball dead, he drilled a finish back across goal and into the bottom corner. It was heartbreak for Palace but it was Liverpool who left with the valuable and hard-fought three points.
In truth Crystal Palace probably deserved at least a point from this game as they played incredibly well, dominating the match for large spells. They defended their lead valiantly too but in the end they couldn’t deal with the quality of Mohamed Salah. The Eagles will face a tough battle to avid the drop, but this game proved that they have the quality to secure survival.
After looking nothing like their usual selves in the first half, Liverpool did incredibly well to come back and win this game, putting themselves in prime position to secure a top four finish. Salah looks set to secure the Golden Boot too, and there is absolutely no doubt of his remarkable talent.
Crystal Palace: Hennessey, Wan-Bissaka (Fosu-Mensah, 88’), Kelly, Sakho, Van Aanholt, McArthur, Milivojevic, Cabaye (Loftus-Cheek, 73’), Townsend, Benteke, Zaha
Liverpool: Karius, Alexander-Arnold, Matip, Van Dijk, Robertson, Wijnaldum (Oxlade-Chamberlain, 65’), Henderson, Milner, Salah, Firmino, Mane (Lallana, 64’, Lovren, 70’)
Goals: Milivojevic (1-0, 13’), Mane (1-1, 49’), Salah (1-2, 84’)
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
Yellow Cards: Karius (12’), Mane (24’), Benteke (38’), McArthur (45’)
Red Cards: None
Crystal Palace: Hennessey 6, Wan-Bissaka 7 (Fosu-Mensah n/a), Kelly 6, Sakho 6, Van Aanholt 7, McArthur 6, Milivojevic 7, Cabaye 6 (Loftus-Cheek n/a), Townsend 6, Benteke 5, Zaha 7
Liverpool: Karius 6, Alexander-Arnold 6, Matip 6, Van Dijk 7, Robertson 7.5, Wijnaldum 6 (Oxlade-Chamberlain n/a), Henderson 6.5, Milner 7.5, Salah 8, Firmino 7, Mane 7 (Lallana n/a, Lovren n/a)
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